Big hopes riding on small goods

Ekeko, household God of abundance

Ekeko, household God of abundance

With its roots in ancient Aymará traditions, the annual Alasitas festival was originally held in September (Bolivian springtime) in order for farmers to ensure a bountiful harvest.  Nowadays, the festival begins on January 24th and runs for three weeks or so.  Alasitas means `buy from me` in Aymará, and is celebrated with a huge fair in La Paz where everyone buys miniature representations of their wishes and aspirations for the coming year.  These items are offered to Ekeko (`dwarf` in Aymará) who is the household God of abundance.  Statues of the diminutive, rosy-cheeked, mustachioed Ekeko are laden with offerings of money, alcohol and cigarettes to keep him satisfied and benevolent.

Typically, Bolivians rush to the crowded fair at noon on the first day of the festival, clamouring to make their purchases and to have them blessed by a yatiri (witch doctor).  The blessings are a mystical, aromatic affair, with much murmuring and the spilling of alcohol and scattering of flower petals, amidst billowing clouds of incense.

The variety of objects on offer is remarkable, but by far the most popular item is the tiny replica currency – Bolivianos and dollars – to ensure a prosperous year.  Merchants wave wads of mini bank notes at the hordes of passers-by, shouting out tantalizing offers such as `un peso para mil dólares americanos!` (1 boliviano for US $1000).

Stalls overflow with miniature handcrafted hens and roosters (for those seeking a romantic partner), replica passports, visas and suitcases for those wishing to travel, toy cars and houses, construction materials and tools, diplomas and job contracts, certificates of marriage, divorce, birth and death(!), and tiny doll`s house sized packages of flour, rice and all manner of food products to ensure an abundance of food in the house.

I settled on a job contract, a certificate of good health, money and a driver`s licence.  (Ekeko will have his work cut out, since that very night I dreamt I ran over two people while driving a bus.)

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Feb 2-3 211

Houses and land are up for grabs, as well as bags of cement and other construction materials and tools

Houses and land are up for grabs, as well as bags of cement and other construction materials and tools

Hens and roosters for those looking for love

Hens and roosters for those looking for love

University diplomas & degrees, job contracts, certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce

University diplomas & degrees, job contracts, certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce

Skulls feature during some blessings

Skulls feature during some blessings

A yatiri, blessing my purchases

A yatiri, blessing my purchases

Mini versions of national newspapers are released during the first day of Alasitas, containign satirical and comical articles

Mini versions of national newspapers are released during the first day of Alasitas, containing satirical and comical articles

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9 thoughts on “Big hopes riding on small goods

  1. The dream interpreters will no doubt have an explanation of your ‘bus driving’ dream. It’s so interesting to see the similarities in traditions. Not sure why anyone would want a death certificate though… The Chinese offer paper money, maps (to help them on their journey), miniature houses/clothes/cars to our departed relatives and ancestors. If it’s not too late, I could do with some visas. I shall be needing them for Uzbekistan, China and especially for Kyrgyzstan as the visa application has to include a letter of invitation from someone local. In Wylam, our household God of Abundance is also a moustachioed (as well as bearded) male called ‘Roy’ who seems to be satisfied and benevolent from the regular offerings of ‘Amazon’!! See how similar traditions are regardless of where you are in the world…

      • Got you a visa, mum! Though it features the USA, strangely enough there was nothing with Uzbekistan, China or Kyrgyzstan. Nor could I locate a witch doctor to bless it, so its potential for success is a little dubious. (Thought that counts?)

    • Ha! Not sure… If not, the witches` market is abound with such remedies. Or you can always call my mum – sexual health advisor extraordinaire. In fact, she will likely enjoy posting some public advice right here for you.
      P.S. It took me until today to finally share the link to my blog with Crossroads. Thanks for justifying my anxiety… 🙂

  2. Hey Jones, can you pick up a few diplomas for me? PHD, human rights law, philosophy, architecture, science, psychology etc. Is there a master of animal astrology? Thanks!

  3. Hi Joni,
    Jonathan Baily shared your blog with me (former member of Harmonia Westmount and member of Christ Church Cathedral) and I have to say I was lost for over an hour following your adventures. What you need to know is that I have never spent that much time on any blog, having convinced myself a long time ago that I was too old for this. Now, however, I am hooked – at least on your blog! More importantly though, I am so impressed with what you are observing, experiencing and doing. Thanks for sharing and for all you do.

    • Hi Veronica, Lovely to hear from you! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and to comment! Your kind words are much appreciated. I feel lucky to be here and it`s a pleasure to share my adventures. Hope you`re well.

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